The Yamaha WR250R now competes in the suddenly popular dual sport segment. It's smaller than the DR-Z400S, much more expensive than the CRF250L and much higher spec than the KLX250S.
In an age of 600lbs, 1,200cc adventure tourers wearing knobby tires, it’s easy to forget that dirt bikes don’t need to be big, heavy and expensive. This is the little Yamaha that could. Sharing an aluminum twin-spar chassis and fully-adjustable suspension with the dirt-only WR250F, don’t let the 250cc capacity confuse you — the Yamaha WR250R is a fast motorcycle on-road and off.
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Seriously, we had an absolute blast running around LA freeway traffic on these, out-dragging confused Harley riders and taking advantage of the high seats, wide bars and 298lbs weight to carve through stationary traffic. The WR was even happy cruising at 90+ mph in the fast lane for extended periods.
Off-road, it’s a real dirt bike. It’ll jump, it’ll land, it’ll ford rivers and cover your buddies in mud.
The WR is pricey because you get a lot for your money. Fuel injection, wavy brake discs front and rear, fully adjustable suspension, nice components everywhere you look. This is not a budget motorcycle. It’s also a Yamaha. Which means it’s going to start on the first push of the button every single time and won’t need its engine ripped apart every 40 hours.
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Unlike larger single-cylinder engines, the WR’s doesn’t make your hands numb with vibration, even while cruising at 85mph. The skinny dirt bike seat looks uncomfortable, but it’s got just the right amount of support for hours of comfort.
We didn’t try, but others report seeing top speeds of 90mph +. That from a little 28bhp, 18lb/ft four-stroke 250 single. It gets there quickly too. There’s not much bottom end, but it likes to rev. Max power arrives at 10,000rpm.
Those fancy 46mm, fully adjustable KYB forks and fully adjustable (with ride height) Soqi shock deliver 10.6 inches of travel front and rear. That’s only slightly less than the dirt-only WR250F. Because it’s revy and because the clutch is so linear and predicable, the engine is exceptionally easy to use off-road. Instead of surging ahead with the faintest twist of the throttle, you instead need to work the clutch to negotiate low-speed obstacles and work the gears when things get faster.
One of the main gripes about the WR250R is that the dual sport weighs 278lbs, 44lbs more than the dirt-only WR250F. The thing is, you don’t feel it. Everything about the R feels welter weight from pushing it around, lifting it up, balancing at very low speeds or whatever. Seriously, if you didn’t know and someone told you the weight, you’d assume they were lying.
Going back to the “this is not a budget bike” thing. It looks like the real deal because it is. The engine looks modern, the suspension is flashy, the tapered aluminum swingarm looks like it belongs on a race bike. Get it muddy and pull this up in front a bar and people will think you just rode in from Baja.
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At 36.6 inches, the seat is still dirt bike high, yet it’s two inches lower than the WR250R, so you’ll be able to touch the ground as you sit on it. By twiddling the ride height adjuster and dropping the forks, you can lower that even further. New riders won’t be intimidated on the highway either. Saying it easily keeps up with traffic is an understatement. It’s faster than most traffic. This would be a great first motorcycle that’d allow you to develop your dirt skills, but it would also work for an experienced dirt rider looking for a dual sport to ride on the street too.
At $6,490 the WR250R isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s $291 more than the Suzuki DR-Z400S. But, that DR-Z doesn’t get 71mpg. That’ll save you money day-to-day, but it helps on the trails too. You’ll see 100-120 miles out of the 1.9 gallon tank.
The Bridgestone TW301/302 tires that are so good on road (even in the pouring rain) are a little limited off compared to dedicated dirt tires, but we were able to blast down sandy fire roads, through mud and over slick, wet rocks in and around water crossings without even stopping to air them down.
Never owned a dirt bike? This is an non-intimidating way to get started getting dirty. Experienced dirt bike rider looking for a reliable dual-sport? This’ll do way more than just get you to the trails and still entertain you once you’re there.
RideApart Rating: 9/10
Photography Credit: Grant Ray